Afraid to get help for addiction? It’s normal

By Dave Jansa, program advisor & peer coach

Published April 16, 2018

When someone first comes to meet with us, one thing we hear often is, “I’m afraid to stop using because my friends won’t want me around and I’ll never have fun again.” 

Other common fears include: “I can’t go to treatment because I’m afraid my boss will find out,” or, “I’m afraid to stop because I don’t know how to live without it.”

Feeling afraid is a normal human reaction to change. It’s not usually the actual change that’s scary – it’s the anticipation of what’s to come and uncertainty about how it will impact your life.

No matter the stage of your wellness journey, fear of change can serve as a powerful barrier to progress.

Coping with change is something we focus on in our peer addiction management coaching. Here are some ways we recommend overcoming fear of change no matter what you’re facing:

1. Celebrate the little successes. 
Most significant life changes seem huge but happen in a series of small steps. Don’t obsess about what probably feels like a monumental change. Focus on the little bits of progress along the way – this will help you keep going.

For example, some clients are overwhelmed and not yet ready to commit to lifelong abstinence. But often times, many are willing to choose a shorter-term abstinence goal as a first step. When they successfully meet this first goal, the conversation is usually very different. Many of the initial fears are gone and often replaced with feelings of health and accomplishment. 

2. Accept that some stress is just part of the process. 
Any change, big or small, will be stressful to some degree. Acknowledge the stress for what it is – a normal but temporary part of the process that will soon pass.

3. Spell out the best and worst-case scenarios. 
If a big change is holding you back, it helps to break things down for a reality check. Write down the best and worst-possible outcomes of the change. Are the worst-case scenarios so awful? How you could you deal with them? This can help put things in perspective. 

4. Avoid the “what if's.” 
Letting your brain run wild with possible “what ifs” can be paralyzing. If you find yourself going there, acknowledge your thought pattern and re-commit to focusing on the here and now. There’s no point in stressing over hypotheticals.

As humans, we need to get out of our comfort zones in order to grow. This is true for everyone – not only those working to overcome addiction. The sense of accomplishment you feel once you’ve successfully completed a big change is almost always rewarding.


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